The Port of Olympia recently honored Billy Frank Jr. by renaming a park and trail in Washington’s state capital after the late treaty rights activist and tribal leader.
Last year residents urged the port to rename its main public road after Frank. After consulting with the Squaxin Island Tribe and the Frank family, the port agreed to instead rename a public trail and park.
“We thought a park and trail was a respectful way to pay tribute to his legacy,” said Ray Peters, the intergovernmental liaison for the tribe. “A lot of tourists will walk that trail and visit that park, and it was close to the water, which was so important to Billy.”
The park will be the most recent public honor for Frank.
The Nisqually Tribe, the Squaxin Island Tribe and the city of Bellingham already have named streets after him. The Nisqually Tribe also renamed their former administration building. A low-income housing project in Olympia carries his name as well. In 2015, the federal government renamed the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to honor Frank.
The half-acre park is adjacent to the site that both the Squaxin Island and Nisqually tribes used for landings during canoe journeys they hosted in recent years.
The port also has committed to adding educational signs to the park and enhancing the area with native plants.
The Frank family and the Squaxin Island Tribe will approve the eventual design. “We thought it was important that the port not just rename the park and trail and walk away,” said Willie Frank III, Frank’s youngest son and a Nisqually tribal council member. “We wanted them to leave the park a better place than it was before.”
“My dad spent his life fighting for treaty rights and also educating people about our struggle. He talked a lot about why protecting and restoring salmon habitat is vital for everyone,” Willie Frank said. “This will be an important place for people to come learn about his life and legacy.”
Willie Frank III walks through the park recently named for his father. Photo: E. O’Connell.